Most parents agree that extracurricular activities are beneficial for kids, as children can learn teamwork, develop emotionally and physically, and get exposed to new things they might like. These activities often are not free, however. Even if you can find one without a fee, you’ll generally have equipment expenses. It’s a good idea for you and your child to try to save as much as you can.
- Wait to buy the equipment, and go secondhand first when you do.
Unless you know that your kid is going to be the next Itshak Perlman of violin or Babe Ruth of baseball (hint: you won’t), there’s no need to go buying hundreds of dollars worth of top-of-the-line equipment right out of the gate. It’s better to wait until your child decides whether he’ll stick with the activity before shelling out the big bucks. Even when your child needs pricier gear, you often can get great deals on used, high-quality items from friends, family, or shops and websites. If you can’t find someone to buy cheap equipment from to start, renting is a viable option. If your child quits and goes to something else, you’ll likely have paid much less in rental fees than you would have if you had purchased a top item new.
- Look to your community center and school.
If your child gets involved in extracurricular activities through school, there often aren’t fees as there often are through private organizations. If your child’s school doesn’t offer what your kid wants to do, community centers often offer introductory or regular classes at a fraction of the cost of private centers. These do just fine for testing the waters on a particular activity—pay for private lessons or membership in a more advanced group once your child’s interest and ability is clear.
- Look for scholarships or sponsorships.
Scholarships aren’t just for pencil and paper subjects anymore. Many groups are willing to offer scholarships to students who demonstrate unusual ability in an area, either as a community-building effort or to find the participants who might excel. If you don’t qualify for a scholarship, many businesses will sponsor kids in return for some word of mouth or other advertising, as it boosts their company reputations and attracts new clients. Ask around!
- Be an early bird.
Organizations often give you discounted rates on equipment or fees if you register early for the season or class. Some take off more the earlier you register, while others just have one early registration deadline.
- Skip the extras.
Many extracurricular groups have extras you can get, such as team photo packages. One or two of these might not break the bank for you and your child, but if you do it for every activity, or if you have multiple children, costs quickly can get into the hundreds of dollars.
- Consider online options.
With the commonality of Internet use and high-quality webcams, many activities your child would go to class or get private instruction for can be handled through your computer. The advantage here is that you might be able to work with an instructor from anywhere in the world, ensuring that your child has a good fit and experience.
- Go for automatic debit.
Some activities have reoccurring fees. If this is the case for what your child is doing, see if you can set up an automatic debit for a discount. Some organizations will do this to save on administrative costs of processing other forms of payment. You might be able to avoid accidental late fees, as well.
Many parents don’t consider a barter or exchange arrangement to pay for extracurriculars, but it’s more common than you might think. If you volunteer, such as cleaning the practice room, helping out on field trips, or even coaching, many groups will let your child participate at a lower